How $57 Million Holocaust Fraud Unfolded at Claims Conference

Letter From Manhattan Federal Court

Done Deal: German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, right, and Julius Berman, chairman of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, sign an agreement to expand benefits to Holocaust survivors.
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Done Deal: German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, right, and Julius Berman, chairman of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, sign an agreement to expand benefits to Holocaust survivors.

By Paul Berger

Published May 09, 2013, issue of May 31, 2013.
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Conard pointed to the small number of applicants that Kramrish directed to the Claims Conference, an average of about two per year over a decade, saying, “That’s not a business, that’s a hobby. That’s what you do when people down the street say, ‘I heard your mum got approved, can you help me with my application?’”

Oksana Romalis, the third defendant, left the Claims Conference years before the fraud was discovered. Prosecutors allege that although Romalis and her daughter were born after World War II, they both received Hardship Fund payments. Prosecutors also accused Romalis of being a middleman for Blavatnik and Voskresenskiy.

Rohr said that Romalis passed between 150 and 200 fraudulent applications to the Claims Conference, largely by sending the organization signed, blank application forms. She also arranged for a Claims Conference employee to change some applicants’ addresses to Romalis’s Brooklyn home so that she could receive and control the money.

Romalis’s attorney, Harvey Slovis, delivered a long and impassioned defense of his client, quoting liberally from Shakespeare and once from Spike Lee.

Slovis told jurors that Romalis laundered checks from applicants because her friend, Voskresenskiy, asked her to do so and that Romalis did not benefit financially from the scheme. Slovis also implied that Jews, even children and grandchildren of survivors, could have believed they had a right to Holocaust funds.

“This wasn’t Germany’s money,” Slovis said. “It was money stolen from the Jews.”

That assertion may have surprised one other observer in the courtroom, a representative from the German consulate, which has sent a legal specialist to the trial each day. Her job: taking notes on how and why the money collected as taxes from German citizens went to individuals who were not Holocaust survivors.

Contact Paul Berger at berger@forward.com or on Twitter @pdberger


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